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It’d been a beautiful journey so far with the ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ and it wasn’t yet over for us yet. We headed out from Bhopal to Dhar which is about 70 Kms from Indore. With a quick pit-stop on the Indore Highway for lunch, it wasn’t until evening that we were welcomed in the Bada Bangla in Dhar. Dhar as a city was beautiful with the it’s picturesque lakes and barren lands surrounded with trees. As I wandered to the top of the Dhar Fort to watch the sun setting over the city, I could only marvel at the architectural might the Pawars had.

Royal Cuisine Trail - Dhar

View From Dhar Fort

We were welcomed at the Bada Bangla which is still being restored. The vast cultural history that adorned the Bada Bangla was astounding. From books in the library from as early as the 18th century to the numerous stuffed tigers spread across the bungalow. There was also a detailed mini structure of the Mandu Kingdom in the lawns.

Bada Bangla

Invitation

The evening was eventful as we were received by Maharaja of Dhar, Hemendra Singh Rao Pawar and Maharani Shailaraje Pawar at their home. Now for a bit of insight into the culinary history of Dhar which takes it’s influence from the Konkan Maratha style of cooking. The cuisine gives a whole lot of priority to homemade masalas bringing along a fusion of north and south style of Marathas. All of the dishes prepared that night dates back to the Maharaja’s grandmothers. She realized that these royal and historical recipes would soon be forgotten hence she hand wrote all the recipes and handed over these copies to all her three daughters and two daughter-in-laws.

With The Maharaja and Maharani of Dhar

Maharaja and Maharani of Dhar

The starters for the night Bheja Kachori and Sawal Machli ke Kebab. The Bheja Kahori especially were outstanding. A crisp brown outer covering with soft and deliciously spiced brains, this was a snack worth reaching out for another. I really liked the fresh green chutney which was served alongside which goes on to play a major role later.

Bheja Kachori and Sawal Machli ki Kebab

The dining room had been set as per Indian traditions. The seating was on the floor with the silver plates placed on a higher stool to enable proper eating. The Maharaja was personally there to supervise as we washed our hands over a bowl covered in Ashoka leaves. The food served at Dhar is one that I’ve had innumerable times in Maharashtra but better. Arranged along the thali were Aloo ki Bhaji, Pathawadi ki Rassa, Hari Mirch ki Amtii and Kakdi Raita.

The Royal Cuisine Trail - Dhar (1)

These are all traditional Konkan food which are part of most Maharashtrian homes. But it’s to the hara chutney (Green Chutney) that I had mentioned earlier that I shall now elaborate on. The same chutney was used in marination of the Pomfret fish which was absolutely divine. As Shrimant Jaishree Raje Deokar, the Maharaja’s sister informed us that the fish goes through a double marination and then is grilled in between to soak in all of the flavors. The other fish that night on our plate was the Laal Masale ki Surmai, a simple preparation of the seer fish.

Laal Masale ki Surmai

A Konkan thali is incomplete without the Sol Kadi made from kokum and coconut milk, a perfect respite from the heat. We ended the meal with some classic desserts featuring the Puran Poli, Rave ke Sheera and Chawal ki Kheer.

That night after the lovely meal we headed onwards to Mandavgad, a now ruined city which has been classified a UNESCO world heritage city. But more on that in another blogpost. The culinary history we got to discover through the ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ was spell-binding. From endless discussions on Indian Family History, rides among the ruins of erstwhile kingdoms and road trips filled with knowledge worth a lifetime. These are memories worth treasuring.

Other Posts of ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ are as below:

Limdi – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/limdi/
Bhopal – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/bhopal/
Bhainsrorgarh – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/bhainsrorgarh/

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Royal Cuisine Trail - Bhainsrorgarh

Food from the royal kitchens of Limdi and Bhopal had now been crossed off the list. Although the little bit of experience we had with the food from the two princely states could never justify the vastness of the cuisine, it was at least a start. The next in the ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ was from the kitchens of Bhainsrorgarh Fort. The Bhainsrorgarh Fort is a beautiful heritage property which has now been converted into a hotel. The nearly 250+ years old fort at point of time was impenetrable. Situated on a cliff it is surrounded by the Chambal river on side and Bamani on the other.

Bhainsrorgarh Fort

To justify the food we had the night from Rajpootana Kitchen, I have to first tell of my first encounter with Kunwar Hemendra Singh. His passion for food, cooking and knowledge of ingredients is can’t be explained in mere words. When we first met, he had made us a Hari Mirch ka Maas and Jungli Aloo in a commercial kitchen which was literally one of the best dishes I’ve had in awhile. Yet he’s his own critic and lamented the change in taste that he could have got with with his own set of tools and at his kitchen. That’s when I knew that the food was going to be worth every bite.

With The Kunwar and Kunwarani of Bhainsrorgarh

Happy Moments

As Kunwar Ajay Raj Singh of Begu would later tell me that Hemendra Singh did head out early morning to get the right cut of meat from the butcher for each of his dishes. Starting off the dinner was with the Bakre Ki Champ and Macchi ke Sule. The Bakre ki Champ were mutton ribs which had been roasted magnificently with spices. In the afternoon I did sneak a chance to get into the kitchen while Kunwarani Vrinda Kumari Singh was marinating the fish and all I did notice is the simplicity. Other than the basic spices, there was no extra dose of masala and the fish was the centerpiece. These were then smoke-roasted to give us the delicate melt-in-the-mouth sooleys.

Bakre Ki Champ

Machchi Ke Sule

Now it was time to indulge in true Rajasthani-style food. There were a couple of dishes that I’ve tried before and some hereto unknown. The Safed Maas Hari Mirch was exquisite along the with the Jungli Chicken. If we take a look at Indian culinary history on a simpler note, then you either had a red (Laal) or a white (Safed) gravy to each of your dishes. The Laal Maas as a dish is a very colloquial term that went to named as a dish. The Safed Maas in turn had a light tanginess from the curd with the spice coming from the fresh green chilis. You’d be amazed to know how 3 ingredients can make a wonderful dish and that was the Jungli Chicken. Just meat, red chilis and ghee is all that goes into making a Jungli Chicken and yet it’s the precision at which to cook it makes the difference. This was simple authentic Indian cooking at it’s best.

Food From Rajpootana Kitchen (1)

Jungli Chicken

The Siri Paya makes use of both the trotters and head of mutton to get the juices out with all of the spices with a slow cooking. The result was a magnificent gravy which I thoroughly enjoyed. The vegetarian dishes that night featured traditional Rajasthani dishes like the Bharwa Bhindi, Sangri ki Sabzi, Gatte ki Sabzi and Papad ki Sabzi. The Makki ka Soyta was another superb dish where the mutton was cooked with corn kernels.

Bharwa Bhindi

Makki Ka Soyta

Siri Paya

I liked the fact that there was Bafla to go along with the gravies. The Bafla are balls of dough which have been baked with a shine on top coming from clarified butter. These can be crushed to help soak in any of the gravies much like what a bread would usually do.

Bafley

Food From Rajpootana Kitchen (3)

The desserts from the kitchens of Bhainsrorgarh that night was the Makki ki Kan and Panna Halwa. The Panna Halwa a dessert made with Hara Channa (Green Lentils) had me excited, a dish you’d seldom come across most menus across the country.

Panna Halwa

Makki Ke Kan

It was a wonderful meal curated by Rajpootana Kitchen from the erstwhile princely state of Bhainsrorgarh. Each of the meals we’ve had till are soaked in history, with each dish having a story to tell. With the next post we travel to the kingdom of Dhar.

Other Posts of ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ are as below:

Limdi – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/limdi/
Bhopal – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/bhopal/
Dhar – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/dhar/

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As we continue on with the ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ after Limdi, we headed onward to Bhopal. The moment you enter into Bhopal, the beauty of the lake surrounds you. An expanse of a city is built around the Bhopal Lake. A huge statue of Raja Bhoj with a sword looks down at the city towards the upper lake. But this trail is all about the food and that’s where we are headed now to.

Royal Cuisine Trail

We were hosted in Bhopal by Sahibzada Raashid Ali and Ayesha Ali Khan of Bhopal at their residence – Shamla Kothi. Bhopal being a central princely state, borrows it’s cuisine heavily from the neighboring kingdoms of Rampur, Awadh and Hyderabad. Rampuri and Hyderabadi touches play a primary role in most of the dishes. But there are three dishes which the Nawaabi kitchens of Bhopal identifies with – Gosht Pasinda, Bhopali Rizala and the Filfora.

At Shamla Kothi

The environment at Shamla Kothi was truly a royal setting once the sun set. Livening up the evenings was mellifluous qawaali and great conversations on history with Sahibzada Omar Faruq ‘Ali and Kunwar Ajay Raj Singh of Begu. We started with the Bhopali Shamis and Cocktail Chicken Samosas. The Shami Kebabs were outstanding with the dash of lime on them. But it was the Cocktail samosas which turned out to be quite addictive. Among the other starters that night were fresh Hummus and Labneh with Za’atar which were served with pita bread. The Labneh had been infused with chili and garlic.

Cocktail Samosas And Bhopali Shammis

Now it’s important to note that most of the Bhopali cuisine uses a lot of coriander in them. In fact most of the dishes feature coriander prominently either in whole seed form, freshly cut coriander or as a powder component while cooking. Hence the dishes Filfora and Bhopali Rizala were born. The Filfora is a jungle recipe originating from hunting expeditions. The meat is pounded finely and is cooked in it’s juices with light spices and whole lot of coriander.

Table Setting For The Night (2)

The Nawabi Murgh Bhopali Rizala is though not to be confused with the Rezala of Bengal is also inspired by the Mughlai Cuisine. There is no use of cashews and coconuts unlike the Bengali Rezala in the cooking process but it definitely packs in complex flavors. The dish again values the coriander which gives it a fine green color. The dish is garnished with peeled eggs.

Nawabi Murgh Bhopali Rizala

It is now that we gradually move on to the Rampuri and Awadh side of effects on royal Bhopal dishes. The Taar Gosht is a delicacy from the royal kitchens of Rampur was exceptional. The gorgeous red of the Taar Gosht comes from the use of fresh tomato puree which also gives it some tanginess.  I absolutely adored the Koftas which were made in an exquisite gravy. The other dishes included Quail (Bater) Masala and Paya.

Kofta

Bater Masala

Bhopal literally marries the cuisines of the North and South kingdoms. With the Hyderbadi influences came the Mutton Dum Biryani, Mirchi Ka Salan, Dahi Baingan, Khatte Aloo and Khatti Dal. But there is one dish that I wish to discuss here and that’s the Tamatar ka Kut. One of the most popular dishes among the Hyderabadi Muslims, the kut in the name refers to dry roasting of the spice mix. It’s tangy and spicy and goes great with hot rotis and Baghare Rice.

Table Setting For The Night (1)

Dahi Baingan

The food that we had from the Royal Kitchens of Bhopal was exceptional but the best was saved for the last. Among the desserts was the Double ka Meetha which had a lovely aroma of saffron and cardamom and Phirni. The highlight though will have to go to the Chana ki Daal ki Halwa. Made from split bengal gram it is sautéed till a rich aroma is achieved and flavoured with cardamom and saffron.

It was a remarkable experience at Shamla Kothi with all of this food available under the bespoke brand of Bigde Nawaab.

Other Posts of ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ are as below:

Limdi – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/limdi/
Bhainsrorgarh – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/bhainsrorgarh/
Dhar – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/dhar/

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The month of April 2017 was particularly special in terms of our search for new cuisines and travel. This month after intensive planning we went on to experience “The Royal Cuisine” food at the palaces of royalties of Madhya Pradesh. The Royal Cuisine Trail began with the a tale of food through the princely state of Limdi.

Royal Cuisine Trail - Limdi

Among the numerous princely states which existed before partition, Limdi held prominence in Gujrat. With Limdi lying very close to Madhya Pradesh, the food habits of the kingdom reflected the cuisines of both the states of MP and Gujarat. We were hosted by Kunwar Shivraj Sinh and his wife at their residence in Indore to gain a first-hand experience on the food of Limdi. To give people an insight into the food of the royal kitchens, the duo of Kunwar Shivraj Sinh Limdi and Kunwarni Vijaya Singh Sirmaur have started Gourmet Royal.

Kunwar Shivraj Sinh Limdi and Kunwarni Vijaya Singh Sirmaur

The night began with Vegetarian Seekh Kebabs and Maans ke Sule. If you take the consideration of royal food, most of the dishes were born out of need. From recipes created during hunting to dishes prepared which could last them through the drier months. So unlike the popular notion of richness, they also used the fresh produce of the land with changing season and whatever spices were found around. The Maans ke Sule had been given a twist than the original recipe although holding onto the originality. The raw papaya (kacha papita) and kachri (a variety of cucumber) as used to moisten the meat. Also to be noted is that the Kachri gives the meat a bit of sourness. The fusion twist to the soole was the use of Worcestershire sauce giving it further tanginess. The rest of the ingredients were all simple being red chilies, homemade garam masala and garlic. The Maans ke sule were literally melt in the mouth and the perfect start to the evening.

Maas Ke Soole

The princely state of Limdi in Gujarat was closely related to the Malwa region of Jabua. With Kunwar Shivraj Sinh and Kunwarni Vijaya Singh Sirmaur being cousins, there is a confluence of dishes of both royal cuisines under Gourmet Royal. To gain further deep understanding of Royal Cuisines in India, it’s important to note that there was a interlinking by marriage between the princely states. This changed the entire eating habits with the women bringing along their state recipes and integrating them with the kingdoms they’d been married to. For eg. Kunwarni Vijaya Singh Sirmaur’s grandmother was from the kingdom of Nepal married to Jhabua. Thus there are also a lot of Nepali recipes being catered to under the brand of Gourmet Royal.

The Food For The Night

As we progressed on with the main course there were distinct flavors which I could identify. The Limdi Khatti Meethi Dal was beautiful bringing along the flavors of Gujarat. The sourness in the dal came from the lemon (nimbu) while the sweetness from jaggery (gud). It was all about the right balance and went great with plain rice. My favorite among the night was the Kachu Tarkari. It’s a Nepali Vegetable Raita which was especially refreshing to the palate with the use of fresh vegetables. A perfect summer accompaniment to all the other heavy food on the plate. The other vegetarian dishes on the menu included Aloo Do Pyaaza, Baked Veg, Crispy Bhindi (Okra) and smoked Paneer.

Aloo Do Pyaaza

Baked Veggies And Smoked Paneer

Now to the non-vegetarian dishes on the menu. The dishes were wonderfully represented with Desi Chicken Curry, Safed Gosht and Keema Pulao. The Desi Chicken Curry is a very simple recipe of country chicken in spices. The stewing of the ingredients gave a superb aroma to the gravy with the chicken being almost fall of the bone. But it was the Safed Gosht which had caught my attention. Now there are multiple variations of the Safed Gosht among the states of MP, Rajasthan and Gujarat. In fact this dish had change in it’s preparation with each home too. The Safed Gosht of Limdi is different from the Rajasthani version with it’s use of cashew paste. The rest of the ingredients which go into making the Safed Gosht are Khus Khus (Poppy Seeds), Lemon Juice and Khadi Hari Mirch Paste (Whole Green Chili Paste). The Safed Gosht tastes phenomenal with roti.

Non-Vegetarian Main Course

The night was full of conversation on food as we were joined for dinner by the royalties of Bhopal, Bhainsrorgarh, Begu and Dhar. The wealth of the information about royal cuisine and history which were discussed that night were impeccable. We finally concluded the exquisite meal with Mango Pudding and Homemade Phirni. I might have been a bit to greedy in reaching out for a second helping of the fabulous mango pudding.

Mango Pudding and Homemade Phirni

It is a delight to know that we can now experience the royal food from the erstwhile princely kingdoms through Gourmet Royal started by Kunwar Shivraj Sinh Limdi and Kunwarni Vijaya Singh Sirmaur.

With The Kunwar and Kunwarni

Bhopal – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/bhopal/
Bhainsrorgarh – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/bhainsrorgarh/
Dhar – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/dhar/

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